Everything went according to Elgin’s plan the first 16 minutes, and in the second half very little did — including the game’s final play.
It didn’t matter because Isaiah Butler made it all work anyway. The Maroons’ scoring leader got the ball near the baseline after the final planned play broke down, and hit a double-clutch five-footer in a crowd with 1.8 seconds left for a 59-57 Upstate Eight River victory at home over Batavia.
“That went wrong six ways to Sunday,” Elgin coach Mike Sitter said of the game’s last play, which started after a timeout following the game-tying driving lay-up by Batavia’s Tucker Knox with 26 seconds to go. “But he (Butler) can create on his own and that’s what he is supposed to do if things broke down. “And that’s kind of what happened.”
Butler scored a team-high 20 points and knew it was his time to step forward when Elgin (6-10, 2-3) no longer led for the first time in the game on Knox’s shot.
“I had to take it,” he said. “I’m the leader of the team, one of them, and we needed the win. It wasn’t quite what we planned for, but it went in.”
What they had done right by scheme was build a 16-point lead at 34-18 with 3:35 left until halftime after their trapping defense totally took Batavia off its game. Elgin forced 16 first-half turnovers, including 11 in the first quarter. And the Maroons scored 16 points off the turnovers to go into the locker room up 39-25.
“Coach had us playing 5-on-8 in our defense during the week to get ready to play it,” Butler said.
Butler had 11 of his points in the first quarter, and Desmond Sanders scored all 12 of his points in the first half for Elgin, while Lavion Baldwin made two three-pointrs and had seven of his 12 points in the first half.
“We call our new defense ‘spider monkey’ and we just get out there and play it all over the place,” Sitter said. “We use our athleticism in the passing lanes. I think we lost our legs a little bit in the second half.”
Batavia (6-11, 1-6) hit 12-of-19 shots in the second half to rally, and wound up shooting 59 percent from the field (20-of-34) as Danny Pieczynski scored 20 points and Knox 15.
But the tie was all Batavia could manage before Butler’s shot because of the shots the Bulldogs didn’t get to take as a result of their turnovers.
“We gave them 16 turnovers in the first half along with 10 offensive boards,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “That means 26 extra possessions they had in the firsth alf. You can’t win a lot of games doing that. You can’t spot a team 16 points.”